Keystone Oil Spill Larger than Thought
Last November’s spill on the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota was nearly twice as big as originally reported, according to pipeline operator TransCanada.
The company revealed last week that approximately 9,700 barrels of oil spilled on farmland in Marshall County on Nov. 16, considerably more than the 5,000 barrels the company originally estimated were lost. An investigation into the cause of the failure is said to be wrapping up, with a report due in the coming weeks from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Preliminary reports indicated that the leak may have come as a result of damage to either the pipeline itself or its protective coating, caused during construction 10 years ago.
The Aberdeen News notes that if the current estimate is correct, the spill is the seventh-largest in the U.S. since 2010.
The Corrective Action Order issued to TransCanada by the PHMSA 12 days after the spill was discovered said that excavation at the site of the release had revealed “a rupture originating at the 12:00 position.” The order said the failure “may have been caused by mechanical damage to the pipeline and coating associated with a weight installed on the pipeline in 2008.”
Weights, the order noted, are placed in areas where buoyancy due to groundwater is a concern.
TransCanada says it has since finished remediation in the area and is continuing to monitor the vicinity.
The area of the pipeline where the failure occurred is a 30-inch API 5L X70 steel pipe coated with fusion-bonded epoxy.
The volume of the spill was originally reported to be subject to a downward revision; the PHMSA’s order noted that after the initial 5,000-barrel estimate, there was an “unconfirmed lower spill estimate.”
The pipeline was placed back in service 12 days after the leak, and TransCanada says it has since finished remediation in the area and is continuing to monitor the vicinity. The company says testing revealed no impact on groundwater.
Keystone XL Status
The Keystone spill came just as TransCanada gained approval from Nebraska for its Keystone XL project, the long-delayed Keystone extension that would connect the Alberta oil sands with Steele City, Nebraska. TransCanada has since confirmed commercial interest in Keystone XL but has yet to officially announce whether it will move forward with the project, first proposed in 2008.
Keystone XL was rejected by the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2015 but was revived soon after President Donald J. Trump took office in 2017.